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Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

Articles by Sahil

Republicans are working to quiet rumblings that, if all else fails, they may give in on the high income Bush tax cuts. But a newly reported "doomsday plan" to do just that may be the GOP's best way out of a bad situation: give a little, keep a lot, avoid blame for the fiscal cliff, and enter 2013 with the upper hand over President Obama.

ABC's Jonathan Karl heard from two senior Republican lawmakers that the most likely fallback plan is for House leadership to bring up the middle income Bush tax cuts for a vote later this month. A leadership aide told Karl the plan is under consideration but that no decisions have been made.

Here's how it would work.

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White House deficit commission co-chair Erskine Bowles, whose testimony Republicans cited as the model for their counter-offer to avoid the fiscal cliff, dismissed the GOP proposal.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Bowles, a former Clinton White House chief of staff, said that "circumstances have changed since" his remarks to the super committee in Nov. 2011, during which he offered a set of revenue and spending targets that formed the basis for the Republican offer presented in a letter to the White House today.

"In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time," Bowles' statement said. "The Joint Select Committee failed to reach a deal, and circumstances have changed since then. It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today."

"While I'm flattered the Speaker would call something 'the Bowles plan,'" he said, "the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed the GOP counter-offer to avoid the fiscal cliff as an "assault" on middle class Americans and the elderly, claiming it "only makes matters worse."

She said Democrats will file a discharge petition to force a vote on middle class tax cuts Tuesday.

Her statement in full:

“The Republican proposal is another assault on the middle class, seniors, and our future.  The American people made clear that they want us to work together on a balanced approach; yet, in the Republican plan, any alleged resemblance to an offer seeking balance and fairness is nonexistent.  It only makes matters worse.

“The Republican plan talks about seeking middle ground, yet reiterates their party’s commitment to put millionaires ahead of the middle class and Medicare.  Republicans are simply digging in their heels by refusing to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share and actually calling for lower tax rates. 

“Instead of wasting the public’s time, House Republicans should allow a vote on the Senate-passed middle income tax cuts to strengthen middle class families, spur growth in our economy, provide certainty to small businesses, and create jobs.  Democrats are filing a discharge petition, to force a vote on extending the middle income tax cut, on Tuesday at noon.  There’s no time to waste.”

Rep. Sander Levin (MI), the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, responded in a statement to the GOP's counter-proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“Speaker Boehner’s letter to the President today distorts the work of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which assumed the expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts and the continuation of the middle class tax cuts. Within that framework, House Republicans should join with Democrats in passing the Senate bill this week. Republicans remain in a state of denial. The recent election was not a status quo election but rather a validation of the President’s often-stated position on taxes. We must remain optimistic that Republicans will accept reality and not push our nation over the cliff.”  

White House top spokesman Dan Pfeiffer responded late Monday afternoon to the GOP's counter-offer on the fiscal cliff. He said in a statement:

“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve. Independent analysts who have looked at plans like this one have concluded that middle class taxes will have to go up to pay for lower rates for millionaires and billionaires.  While the President is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates.  President Obama believes – and the American people agree – that the economy works best when it is grown from the middle out, not from the top down.  Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit our nation needs.”   

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is bracing Americans for the possibility that Washington fails to avert the so-called fiscal cliff in time, with less than a month to go.

On "Fox News Sunday," the speaker repeatedly affirmed his commitment to preventing the mix of massive tax hikes and indiscriminate spending cuts from taking effect. But he spoke with unmistakable fatalism about the prospect that the two parties will secure a deal to do so in the final month.

"There is clearly a chance," Boehner said, that no deal is struck before Jan. 1.

He scoffed at President Obama's opening bid of $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues alongside entitlement cuts and new stimulus spending, calling it "a non-serious proposal." The speaker, who hasn't proposed a counter-offer, said he was "flabbergasted" by it.

"We're nowhere, period," he said. "We're nowhere."

The remarks reflect a stalemate over increasing tax rates for the highest earners. In recent weeks, Republicans have proclaimed a willingness to raise revenue by limiting tax expenditures and loopholes but refuse to give an inch on raising rates. Obama, having handily won re-election on a plan that includes no middle class tax increases and a mix of spending cuts, is determined to let top rates return to Clinton-era levels.

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The Supreme Court made no announcement Monday as to whether it will take up any same sex marriage cases next year. Challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 are among the options, and the justices will reconsider them at their next conference on December 7.

The Supreme Court may announce Monday morning whether it will next year take up a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law that defines a marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Court is also expected to reveal whether it'll hear a case involving California's Proposition 8, which amended the state's Constitution to ban same sex marriage.

President Obama will ask Democratic National Committee members to re-elect Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) as chairman when they meet in January, a top Democratic source confirms to TPM.

The president's intentions were revealed by Mike Allen in Politico's Playbook.

On Saturday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told a large home state crowd of activists and top political figures that he does not intend to adhere to the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge.

"I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote," he said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I don’t want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington, as to how I'm going to vote on anything."

He noted that the Norquist pledge -- which he recently spoke out against, provoking a backlash from the anti-tax lobbyist -- forbids closing tax deductions and credits unless each dollar of new revenue is used to lower rates. By that logic, Chambliss said, rolling back the ethanol tax credit (a popular idea in the South) to help pay down the debt would violate the pledge. Norquist has repeatedly affirmed that interpretation of the pledge.

”When I said I care about my country more than I do about a 20-year-old pledge, that's what I'm talking about," the senator said. "Things have changed in 20 years. We didn’t owe $17 trillion 20 years ago. We're in a different world today."

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